Contributed by Nkafu Gabriel
For days now, the introduction of a bill by the government of Cameroon to promote bilingualism has been the subject of discussions both on the traditional and social media. Well, the idea of promoting bilingualism may sound laudable, but apparently, it doesn’t as section 26 sub 1 of the bill allows for both English or French to be used by magistrates when passing down judgment over cases in courts all over the national territory.
According to lawyers, politicians and civil society actors notably from the South West and North West regions, the bill if adopted will witness the dominance of French over English in these two regions. Many of them say this is rather provocative as this is one of the reasons why there is an ongoing Anglophone crisis. Remember that in 2016, Common Law Lawyers carried out street protests in Bamenda and Buea, amongst other reasons, to protest the use of French in Anglophone courts.
Reacting to the introduction of the bill, Barrister Akere Muna said “I cannot understand how any #peace loving citizen given the present context can propose a bill that makes bilingualism an option, in blatant violation of the constitution! Talk about fueling the fire! So here we go again.”
According to the Celebrated Historian Prof. Julius Ngoh, “While the move is laudable, the crafters of the bill, the government, MPs and Senators must put the interest of the nation above personal interest and that of their respective political parties.” The renowned Professor added that it will be “difficult and bitter for Cameroonians of good faith to swallow it hook, line and sinker.”
For the second time in three years, on December 04, 2019, Common Law lawyers marched on the streets of Bamenda to protest the controversial bill. Few hours after their protest, the National Assembly bowed to pressure and suspended the draft bill. The lawyers have said they won’t bow to intimidation but will keep fighting for what is right.